Wearing a chef’s hat and apron, children’s book author Mary Ann Fraser stood at the front of a first-grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary School on Thursday and told the students that it was time to cook up a story.
Within minutes, they had concocted a tale about a piano-playing mad scientist put on the run by a lava-spewing volcano.
“You guys did such a fabulous job, I have a feeling that one day I am going to go to a library or a bookstore and pick up a book by one of you,” said Fraser, whose work includes “Pet Shop Follies” and “If Animals Kissed Goodnight.”
It was one of a dozen presentations that took place at the La Crescenta school as part of Authors and Illustrators Day, sponsored by the Assistance League of Glendale. At its core, the program is designed to support the Glendale Unified reading and writing curriculum, Chairwoman Karen Grigg said.
It also serves to expose children to professional writers and illustrators, she added.
“[The students] realize that they are real people, they hear about their life stories and how they became authors,” Grigg said. “This is very exciting and encouraging to the young students.”
Launched in 1997, Authors and Illustrators Day is brought to five different Glendale Unified elementary schools each year, organizers said.
“In the 14, 15 years that we have done this, I would say it’s over a quarter of a million dollars we have given back because the budget has been between $20,000 and $25,000 each year,” said Natalie Abrahamian, public relations coordinator for the league. “It has been quite a financial boost for the schools.”
Each school also received a $1,500 donation for their library, as well as books by all of the visiting authors, organizers said. Students are also able to purchase books by the visiting authors at a discounted price.
“The fun part is when they get the author to sign their book,” Abrahamian said. “It is especially fun for them when they have seen that author in their classroom and they have made that connection.”
In addition to Fraser, the authors at Lincoln Elementary on Thursday included Ann Whitford Paul and Jeri Chase Ferris, who described to students how they got their start writing and the challenges they faced in getting their works published.
“I was writing for five years, I sent out 18 books and I received 118 rejections before I sold my first book,” Paul told her audience of third-grade students.
The writers also recounted a few mishaps.
Once, the text she published for a book about Thomas Jefferson was printed directly on the text for another book, Ferris said. Her publisher had to recall all of the books and have them reprinted.
“It takes a long time for a nonfiction book to be done perfectly,” she explained.